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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Thoughts from the State Legislature

Friday, February 15, 2008

On February 1st, Fiscal Services released a report on general fund revenue growth through the first seven months of FY 2008. Strong growth is still evident. Revenue is coming in 10 percent higher than the previous year, so, the temptation exists to create new programs and spend more money. Believe it or not, there is even evidence there will be tax increases in various areas. Why would the state be raising taxes and fees when revenue growth is so positive? The answer is easy. Place a pile of money in front of some lawmakers, and watch how quickly it disappears. At times, it seems like there is no restraint at all. It would seem to me that when the reserve accounts are full and revenue is up 10 percent, government is taking too much money from the people. Instead of raising taxes, I believe that it would be a good time for a tax cut.

On Wednesday, the House passed the allowable growth bill for schools on a 97-2 vote. This is funding for K-12 schools and the number is a 4 percent increase. It provides $112 million more for Iowa schools. It is also a property tax increase. There was an amendment to require the state to pick up the property tax increases beginning in 2010. That amendment failed. I supported it. It would have meant that the state would have paid the new $45 million property tax increase in 2010 and every year thereafter. Local property taxes are high enough and are going to be going higher very soon. There is always talk about doing something about property taxes, but when it comes time to push the voting button, the desire to make a difference seems to fade away. We may not get any other chances this session. In the end, I did support the bill.

There are a lot of bills floating around the House and Senate. which deal with cell phones, smoking and seatbelts. One bill has already been voted out of the Commerce Committee in the House which would implement a statewide smoking ban in public places and places of employment. Under the original proposal, there were no exemptions. However, the committee passed an amendment to allow smoking in gambling casinos. There is also an exemption for veterans' organizations. It is hard to tell at this time where this legislation will wind up. There are other bills in other committees, so this is far from settled. It would seem to me however, that if you ban something it should be applied to everyone.

There has been legislation introduced which would ban the use of cell phones while driving. Some have suggested that a ban such as this should only apply to teen drivers. I will be paying close attention to this issue as we move it along through the process, but it would seem to me that if you are going to stop teens from talking on the phone while driving, the ban would also have to apply to everyone. It is interesting to note the legislator who filed the bill was on the phone in her car as she was explaining it to a newspaper reporter.

There is also a lot of discussion regarding seatbelts and who should be required to be strapped in. There are different versions of this legislation and it is going to take time to sort through all of the options. Maybe nothing will happen with any of these bans or proposals. But it is apparent that government is alive and well, and more than willing to help you govern your lives.

You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, at home on weekends at 712-434-5880, or fax me at 712-434-2012. You may write to me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is 6144 Y Avenue, Aurelia, IA 51005. If you have email, please contact me at dan.huseman@legis.state.ia.us.